The Greater Toronto Hockey League is proud to announce a home-and-home exchange with Whitefish River First Nation for a second consecutive season. For the 2023-24 exchange, the Under-13 ‘A’ George Bell team will participate alongside youth from Whitefish River First Nation.
The exchange program strives to provide opportunities for GTHL and First Nations players, parents, and other participants to develop relationships, fellowship, and a cultural understanding through a shared passion for the game of hockey. For younger recreational-level players and players who have not previously played hockey, the exchange aims to provide introductory skill development opportunities (both on and off the ice) in order to encourage further participation in the game of hockey, while fostering new learning experiences and relationships.
The first leg will welcome Whitefish River First Nation youth aged nine through to 13 years old of various skill levels visiting Toronto on October 27-29. The weekend will include on-ice sessions, a visit to MLSE LaunchPad, a visit to the University of Toronto, as well as the chance to take in a University of Toronto Varsity Blues hockey game.
“I can report that as I walk the halls and in the school yard at Shawanosowe in recent days, I have been surrounded by a steadily increasing scrum of students wanting to know about the GTHL trip – they are truly excited!” Steven Whitaker, Principal of Shawanosowe School shared. “They want to know about what we’ll be doing in Toronto, who they’re going to sit with on the bus, and literally counting how many sleeps until we leave… it’s been a lot of work once again from all involved, but it’s building up to be another wonderful event.”
Following the visit to Toronto, the U13 ‘A’ George Bell team will visit Whitefish River in February. The team will participate in on-ice sessions, while being immersed in First Nation culture.
“Our team is eager and enthused to meet the players and learn about the Whitefish River First Nation community,” Anver Emon, co-manager of the U13 ‘A’ George Bell team, said. “Many of the kids study the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] calls to action in school. We also ran a small tutorial for them on the Whitefish River First Nation community. They also wrote penpal letters to the Whitefish River First Nation team, introducing themselves. Every letter expressed a keen desire by our players to learn about the team, their home, and their life.”
The GTHL and Whitefish River First Nation exchange program first began in 2022-23, with youth from Whitefish River visiting Toronto in November 2022. With the U11 Select team from the Scarborough Hockey Association, the participants enjoyed a weekend of on-ice sessions, watching a Toronto Maple Leafs practice live, a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame, with added educational sessions on fitness and nutrition.
In February 2023, the visit to Toronto was followed up with the second leg of the exchange in Whitefish River. On the coldest weekend of the year, the participants were treated to on-ice sessions led by the 3Nolans – former NHL Coach of the Year Ted Nolan, and sons, retired NHL players, Brandon and Jordan Nolan – including on an outdoor rink with snowfall as the backdrop. The weekend also included sledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and an opportunity to experience a Pow wow, provided by a gracious invitation from the community.
About Whitefish River First Nation
A community of approximately 1,200 citizens of the Anishinabek Nation located on the shores of Georgian Bay and the North Shore Channel, gatekeepers to Manitoulin Island, Ontario. The main village of Birch Island has approximately 440 members. Whitefish River First Nation is a progressive and active community that encourages, supports, and promotes local development, education, community wellness, and economic development as keys to their success.
About the Greater Toronto Hockey League
Founded in 1911, the GTHL is a non-profit organization and the largest minor hockey league in the world. The GTHL registers more than 40,000 annual participants in Markham, Mississauga, Toronto, and Vaughan. The purpose of the GTHL is to govern organized hockey for youth within its jurisdiction, and to foster participation that reflects the cultural demographic of the League’s territory while promoting an environment that is welcoming and inclusive for all participants.
- Steve Whitaker (Principal, Shawanosowe School, Whitefish River First Nation)
- Stephen Nahwegahbow (Education Manager, Whitefish River First Nation)
- Stephanie Hyde (Manager, Hockey Development and Community Outreach, GTHL)
- Michael Purdy (Director, GTHL)
- John Bell (General Manager, George Bell Hockey Association)
- Anver Emon (Co-Manager, U13 ‘A’ George Bell team)
For more information, please contact:
Stephanie Coratti | Senior Manager, Communications & Marketing